June, July, August ICYMI Event Roundups
Have you missed out on some of our key events the past few months? Here's our takeaways from each and every event we've held this summer from civic tech, to corrupt leaders, to working with whistleblowers. Dig in, learn something new, and let us know what you think!
Hacking Democracy: A discussion with Taiwan’s g0v on growing the civic tech movement
Hosted by Hub Members National Democratic Institute, g0v (pronounced gov-zero) is a decentralized civic tech community in Taiwan that advocates for transparency of information and builds bottom-up civic tech solutions for citizens. g0v aims to use technology in the interest of the public good, allowing citizens easier access to vital civic information and providing citizens with increased power to shape policy outcomes. Since 2012, g0v has been a leader in combining online and offline activism, now regularly engaging more than 1000 contributors from all walks of life, not just “techies.” Join the conversation to learn how g0v helped transform the way citizens in Taiwan think about traditional government through harnessing the momentum of using civic tech as a social movement.
NDI has been working on civic tech including disinformation for the last few years, including as a partner to Code for All. G0v (www.g0v.tw) is the Code for Taiwan chapter.
G0v was established in 2012 and exists to address three issues: because policymaking isn’t transparent there is distrust of government; information access is not equal, and its hard to reach democratic consensus on policies. They use a combination of open source, public activism, and free software to enable civic tech in Taiwan and beyond.
The Sunflower movement was a 23 day student occupation of parliament in 2014 that gave greater push to Taiwanese reforma and civic tech. g0v's work during the movement brought wifi to parliament and enabled live casting of the activities in real-time. Every tool they've produced is open source with code available on Github. G0v is a 5 year old, diverse movement with about 40% coders, 20% NGOs, plus designers, government officials and others. They now have over 2,000 contributors and do one-day hackathons every two months. Last year they also began giving small grants (about $10,000) for civic tech prototypes to be developed over 6 months, to help bring more good ideas all the way through to fruition.
Navigation By Judgement Book Talk
This talk draws on Dr. Daniel Honig's newly released book, Navigation by Judgment (Oxford University Press, 2018). Dan argues that high-quality implementation of foreign aid programs often requires contextual information that cannot be seen by those in distant headquarters. Tight controls and a focus on reaching pre-set measurable targets often prevent front-line workers from using skill, local knowledge, and creativity to solve problems in ways that maximize the impact of foreign aid. Drawing on a novel database of over 14,000 discrete development projects across nine aid agencies and eight paired case studies of development projects, he argues that aid agencies will often benefit from giving field agents the authority to use their own judgments to guide aid delivery. This “navigation by judgment” is particularly valuable when environments are unpredictable and when accomplishing an aid program’s goals is hard to accurately measure.
There are increasing returns to navigation by judgement in uncertain, fuzzy and difficult to plan contexts. That doesn't always mean it'll work out, but sometimes it'll give us the best shot.
We should be making sure every penny counts, which is not the same thing as counting every penny.
Provocative: what if sometimes a 'good enough' metric is worse than no metric. Can we consider circumstances in which we shouldn't monitor, because it leads to worse outcomes?
DEMOCRACY DIALOGUE: When Heads of State Are Embroiled In Serious Cases of Crime and Corruption
What happens when a head of state is investigated? We invite you to a conversation on June 12 about what happens to a country’s democracy when the head of state is embroiled in investigations into serious crimes and corruption.
Liberal democracy holds institutions such as an independent judiciary and norms such as checks and balances and independent oversight as foundational. Yet the US finds itself in a position where the current Mueller investigation and all the sound and fury surrounding it raise questions about how well these foundation institutions and norms are functioning. There is arguably a current crisis of faith among Americans towards our public institutions. Yet countries around the world have faced similar threats with heads of state linked to or directly facing similar investigations.
Join the Sunlight Foundation, Global Integrity, the Open Gov Hub, and Transparency International for this latest in our Democracy Dialogues discussion series. This discussion will put U.S. democracy experts in dialogue with front-line democracy defenders from Peru, Romania, and South Africa.
This event offered a comparative discussion with leaders in efforts to remove corrupt leaders in Peru, South Africa and Romania in recent decades, to distill what lessons can be learned from their experiences for the Mueller/Russia Investigation of President Trump and his associates here in the US. One lesson across all cases was that the journalists, prosecutors and others leading such investigations should expect to face smear campaigns attempting to discredit their anti-corruption probes. In all 3 countries, a counter-narrative appeared where the President or Prime Minister under investigation claimed that in fact he was a victim, and he attempted to put the investigators on trial instead.
Corrupt leader Jacob Zuma was ultimately removed from power in South Africa only through a combination of both popular mobilization and strategic litigation. These 2 strategies should also be combined with efforts to educate the public about corruption. In many cases, some people will challenge the credibility of investigations by saying that the courts are not elected. Thus, it is important for elected officials to endorse such efforts.
The value of corruption investigations of high-level officials is that they can really help change public opinion, when people see that no one (not even the President) is above the law. But it is also important to realize that such investigations can take years, and anti-corruption advocates should invest in campaigns to influence public opinion throughout these periods (otherwise the countervailing smear campaigns against them may sway public opinion against these efforts to rid corrupt officials from power).
Many people worry that young people today value democracy less than their predecessors. In fact, in many cases its not that young people don't care about democracy but how they care and how they wish to participate is changing. And there are new, growing challenges to democratic practice around the world (ex: 18 elections in 2017 were affected by disinformation campaigns).
The Hurford Youth Fellows at the National Endowment for Democracy at launching projects to creatively engage young people. This includes writing creative nonfiction stories about successful youth movements in Chile, Nigeria and the Balkans, and launching an "infotainment" web series to debunk common myths about democracy (for example, explaining that the failure of a democratically elected government is the not same as the failure of democracy).
To effectively reach youth with these democratic messages, it is critical to use language that they can relate to, and to use diverse, credible voices as spokespeople and role models that they can learn from.
Working with Whistleblowers Workshops
As some governments become less open, the role of whistleblowers as agents of accountability become even more important. That’s why Open Gov Hub hosted two whistleblower workshops in mid-July, as whistleblowers continue to be an important piece of promoting open governments.
In collaboration with the Government Accountability Project, Open the Government, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, The Intercept, and MuckRock, we gathered public interest activists and immigration justice activists together over two different workshops.
Read all the key takeaways here in this event summary.
This brown bag session presented the Cooperative Capacity Framework, an innovative way to evaluate capacity built and impact in the social sector based on 10 years of work correlating management indicators with organizational performance measures. It can be used by any type of group on any social issue.
The framework identifies five stages of development, from lowest to highest: 1) Fragmentation (the organization has no clear mission, ad hoc systems and people work for their self-interest); 2) Top Down (one clear leader that people follow, staff are disassociated from vision); 3) Inclusive (information flows down and up, everyone is invested in the vision, but high stress because all are responsible for outcomes); 4) Accountable (people prioritize and stay in designated lanes of work, but those lanes don't cooperate well); and finally, 5) Integrated (leaders of each land understand each other, all see the bigger vision and work cooperatively to reach it; resources are well divided).
Many organizations stay in the Top Down stage because there is a huge increase in stress when jumping from that stage to Inclusive, in which everyone needs to buy in to the mission and take ownership for their contribution to the work. Also many capacity building efforts unfortunately focus too much on process and not enough on outcomes. This framework can help clarify what outcomes should be expected at what stages of organizational development.
As you seek to cultivate relationships with funders, view funders as more than a potential source of funding. Explain your needs, how your work fits in the broader ecosystem of your field, and how you plan to evaluate your impact. They may be able to help by facilitating introductions or access to other resources, even if they can't actually fund your work.
Be transparent and forthright early on with your funder if you face challenges in your work, to help them avoid any surprises.
There are several helpful resources with more tips about cultivating donor relationships, including but not limited to: The National Committee for Responsible Philanthropy Power Mapping; Open Gov Hub's Donor Database (only accessible to Hub members); GIFT: Grassroots Institute For Fundraising Training;Nonprofit AF Blog; Grant Advisor (Yelp for Funders); and Edge Funders.